Crist, Fried campaign across Florida in final push to primary

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Charlie Crist and Nikki Fried spent Sunday — the last day of early voting in their primary gubernatorial contest — courting supporters in South Florida, home to the state’s largest concentration of Democratic voters.

A major target for both candidates: black voters, a critically important Democratic constituency. Each attended services at black churches and both campaigned at an NAACP rally at the Fort Lauderdale African American Research Library and Cultural Center.

One of Fried’s stops was at the Worldwide Christian Center, a black church, a place where a Democrat would not have been welcome.

The senior pastor, the Reverend O’Neal Dozier, was for decades a leading Republican activist and was an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Dozier quit the republican party in 2017 because of President Donald Trump. On Sunday, he said the state and the nation must get rid of “Trumpism,” and Fried could help achieve that goal.

Final push

Although the Cristo and Fried The campaigns have been marked by increasingly negative back-and-forths in recent weeks – which continued in their TV advertising – both presented optimistic and optimistic visions for the future on Sunday, reserving their sharpest criticisms for the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.

Primary day is Tuesday, but Floridians have been voting for weeks.

Before the candidates hit the campaign trail on Sunday morning — Crist in Miami and Fried in Fort Lauderdale — the state’s Division of Elections reported that 923,128 Democrats cast ballots by mail or at regional early voting centers.

But that doesn’t mean the contest is already decided, Crist said.

“We know a lot of people voted. There is no doubt about it, and thank goodness for early voting and mail-in voting. But a lot of people haven’t voted yet and so it’s important to walk the tape, and that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

Fried said Sunday was an “opportunity for me to come home, see the voters here on the field and remind them that if we’re going to win in November, I’m our only chance.” She grew up in Miami-Dade County and lived in Broward before being elected as the state’s agriculture commissioner in 2018.

The two almost came face to face.

Crist was listed as a “special guest” for the Souls to the Polls gathering sponsored by the Fort Lauderdale/Broward branch of the NAACP. Walking through the crowd, shaking hands with voters, Crist garnered an enthusiastic response before joining NAACP leaders and elected Democrats on stage.

Shortly after Crist took the stage, Fried – who the campaign had announced would be in the same location later that afternoon – arrived for counter-scheduling and did her own tour, hugging her hand and saluting activists.

Grill master George Griffin invited Fried to pick up his tongs and work the long smoker he hitched to the back of a pickup truck. (A Navy veteran, Griffin said he called it “the torpedo.”) Amid the cloud of smoke in the sun and 90-degree heat, Fried agreed – captured, of course, by cameras.

The rivals have never met directly.

In separate interviews, both candidates expressed optimism about Tuesday’s outcome.

“We feel the excitement. We feel the energy, and we’re going to finish strong and we’re going to win on Tuesday,” Fried said.

Crist offered a similar assessment of his campaign. “I think it’s going well. You see the enthusiasm here. I don’t know how you reproduce that unless people feel it in their hearts and I can tell they are, as God bless them, and we’re on to a win.

no crystal

At the NAACP rally, Crist focused his brief remarks on DeSantis.

“The governor doesn’t care about people. He doesn’t care about minorities. He certainly doesn’t care about women or your right to choose. He does not care about our environment. He doesn’t care about education. It’s incredible,”

“You know what interests him? He cares about his own political future and his candidacy for the White House,” Crist said. “We have to get rid of DeSantis. He’s humiliating, DeSantis, every day. We need to have a governor who cares about people.

Crist was accompanied on Sunday by his fiancée, Chelsea Grimes. They got engaged in June.

Earlier Sunday, Crist campaigned at New Birth Baptist Church and 93rd Street Baptist Church, according to his campaign. (Neither event was open to media coverage) and stopped at Lorna’s Caribbean Grill, a black-owned restaurant in Miami Gardens with State Senator Shevrin Jones.

U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was in South Florida over the weekend campaigning for U.S. Representative Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Miramar, who is face a major challenge of former County Commissioner Dale Holness.

Beatty also recommended Crist, whom she endorsed. Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida, is now a Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg.

Fried pitch

During his speech at the Worldwide Christian Center, Fried also highlighted DeSantis.

“We’ve been living for four years under the rule of a guy who wants to spend all this time dividing us, all his time putting hate in people’s hearts and hurting the people of our state,” she said. declared.

Fried says DeSantis has undermined democracy, made it harder to vote and pushed through new congressional districts that will reduce black representation. “I say enough is enough,” she said.

“I know so many white politicians and elected officials come into black churches and come into the black community asking for your vote. And come here asking and saying we’re going to talk about two things, gun violence and criminal justice reform,” she said. “I’m asking us to finally get back on the black vote and talk about economic opportunities that uplift people.”

She also stopped at the Kings Point condominium community west of Delray Beach, an early voting event in Lauderhill and a Dave Matthews Band tailgate west of West Palm Beach.

Fried and Dozier

Dozier said he supported Fried because “she’s just a better candidate.” (As a voter with no party affiliation, Dozier cannot vote in the Democratic primary.)

They’ve had conversations over the past few months, they both said, and he told about 75 Worldwide Christian Center congregants, as well as others watching the service’s live stream, that “Nikki wants to save democracy”.

Not Mentioned was a central issue she highlighted in the final weeks of the campaign, arguing that she is a true champion of abortion rights. She says Crist isn’t, a claim he vehemently disputes. On Sunday, Fried’s campaign bus, proclaiming her the “only pro-choice Democrat,” was parked on the church grounds.

She is also a supporter of LGBTQ rights and has been endorsed by several South Florida LGBTQ community leaders. On Saturday night, she made an unannounced campaign visit to Wilton Manors, the unofficial capital of the LGBTQ community in South Florida.

Dozier, founder and spiritual leader of the Worldwide Christian Center for 37 years, has long been outspoken in his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Dozier said his perspective on both issues was “about the same” as it always has been.

He said he was not in favor of banning abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. “These are horrible things. But in terms of abortion, I believe the baby should stay in the womb until it’s time to be born.

He said same-sex marriage “is definitely against scripture.”

In an interview and introducing Fried on Sunday, Dozier said saving democracy is paramount. “I fought for this country. I love America. I want to see our democracy struggle. It’s pretty weak now and we know if we put Republicans in power they’re going to continually erode our democracy because of one man, and that’s Donald Trump,” Dozier said. “Once Trumpism is gone…then we can consider these other issues and everything.”

Democratic LGBTQ activist Michael Rajner – who said he spoke to him on Saturday night when he visited the Drynk LGBTQ bar at Wilton Manors – said via text message on Sunday that he “would like[ed] Nikki hadn’t been to Dozier, but maybe she has disconnected people advising her.

Fried said afterwards, “I respect everyone’s political and religious beliefs. I know who I am, what I stand for and what I fight for. [Dozier] is obviously highly respected in his community and everyone is allowed to have their own personal beliefs, especially when it comes to religious beliefs. When someone has such deep convictions, she says, “I’m not trying to change hearts and minds. I try to make sure I’m standing up for what I believe in and representing everyone along the way.

Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @brocade politics

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